What do programming, self-driving cars, video games, and cats have in common? Your first thought might be to wonder whose Youtube vlog I could possibly be referencing. In reality, though, I am talking about ‘while True: learn ( )’. ‘while True:’ is a game developed by Luden.io and has all of these things and more.
When you first enter the game you are walked through the steps to turn on your computer and begin your programming journey. Once you get your computer up and running you are then greeted by an adorable little comic that sets the whole premise for the game.
Following all that you are thrown into a ‘message board’ of sorts, which is really prescripted set dressings. They are really well executed and make you feel like you are actually the one posting and surfing the board. Comics and message board bits are essentially the cutscenes for the game and the world of the game is built through those and your in-game emails.
Now you might be wondering ‘where the heck do the cats come into play?’ and my simple answer is ‘everywhere!’. The premise of the game is that you are a programmer who was struggling with a bit of code; when you walked away to take a well-deserved coffee break your cat fixed the code for you, Your mission is then to master machine learning in order to create a program that will allow you to be able to understand your cat and gain all of its feline wisdom.
The gameplay itself is fairly straightforward and is mostly consists of dragging and dropping nodes and drawing lines between the inputs, nodes, and outputs. When you go to write a new program you will see a large space in front of you and at first, it is a bit intimidating. The left side of the screen is the program input and on the right side is how you need to arrange the output. The far-right contains the nodes that you will have to use to properly sort the input out. You are graded with a bronze, silver, and gold medal system and your grade depends on how many nodes you use and how quickly your program works. Each program you complete works as a building block to help you understand the more complex programs and concepts.
This game is interesting in the fact that it wants to teach you constantly, and yet it doesn’t feel like a typical educational game might. When the game introduces a new concept or node a text box will pop up (with a cat hanging off the side) and teach you about the concept, both in-game and in real life. On the real-life side of the box it gives you links to videos, Coursera courses, and articles so you can really get into it. I found that a lot of the time the concepts in the articles went way above my head, but it is still a really great addition and I am sure it will help inspire others to learn even more.
Beyond that, the devs really tried to build up a community around the game and you can find links to the discord all over the place. The discord is a really nice place for people to report bugs, get news and updates, and even ask for help on those tougher programs. More than once I found myself looking over the discord stuff to try to get a program to work when I was completely stumped.
One of the things the game tries to get across is real-life programming uses and it does this in a big way with startups. Essentially you get an email asking for a program for XYZ concept and you can then decide if you want to invest money and bring it to life. These are really fun and work as a sort of sandbox mode because you are not limited like you are by the normal programs. You can have as many nodes as you desire and I made a few wild programs for the fun of it. The only thing you have to pay attention to is that the more things you put into the program the more expensive it gets. Before you know it you are losing money and the startup goes bankrupt. If your money goes into the negative enough you are greeted by a loan offer from the ‘Last Chance Bank’ and you simply cannot refuse it.
A big leap in the machine learning process is where you train and program a self-driving car (thought I forgot, didn’t ya?). These programs are really fun because they are so different from the rest of the programs and help break up the gameplay a bit. That being said, they are also some of the more frustrating levels because the logic leaps way up. I was stuck on one of these for a very long time because I simply didn’t understand what I was supposed to be doing.
When you aren’t programming you are hanging out in your room and your cat is, of course, laying on a shelf above the computer. As you make money on your programs you can spend that money on things from the shop. You can buy upgrades for your computer to help your programs, or you can buy skins for your cat and decorations for your room. We don’t need to talk about how tricked out my room is and how many skins I have for my cat and how maybe I had to settle for bronze medals because I didn’t buy upgrades right away…
Storytelling is very immersive
|No variety in music |
– very repetitive
|Very cute and endearing||Logic jumps can be too large|
|Educational but fun||Too easy to release wrong code|
while True: learn ()
I must say I really love this game. It is really charming and has its fair share of pop culture easter eggs. You get to learn all sorts of new concepts without even really noticing it. It is challenging enough that I needed to walk away and come back with fresh eyes more than once. There is also a solid community that you can dive right into and be welcomed with open arms. And who doesn’t love computers and cats?
Side note – this is also available on mobile and is essentially exactly the same game. Unfortunately, they haven’t done anything to increase text size, and linking components is really fiddly. Strongly recommend you avoid mobile and go for Steam unless you have amazing eyesight and nimble little fingers.
A review code was kindly provided by Luden.io